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The Grumpy Gardener - April

Hints & Tips With Mike Alexander
In this part of the French News Online "Lifestyle" Section, professional gardener Mike Alexander, takes us, gently, through those tasks you should be tackling in the garden this month.

Forsythia - Prune as soon as they finish flowering

It's War Out There

Predatory beetles, bugs and insects are on the march in April.

For now is the time you can really start to see that seasonal change and the hardships of winter are beginning to be forgotten. It is this month that I really relish doing the job that I do. As winter bursts into spring and the sun starts to shine, I wouldn't swap with a lawyer, doctor or football professional. Of course with the ball handling skills of a worm and an IQ only slightly higher, these are options that might not have easily tumbled my way... but all the same, I am lucky enough to love my job.

Reds Aren't Dead
I am not the only one to enjoy April's arrival. Many of the predatory beetles, bugs and insects will also start to make an appearance now and make determined efforts to eat and chew their way through all your hard work. The lily beetle is a handsome red beetle just under a centimetre in length who feeds on lilies and members of the fritillaria family.

Red ;i;y beetle
Red Lily Beetle

If you keep a close eye on your plants you can pick these predators off by hand and then destroy them but they have a neat little trick which is highly effective. On sensing any unusual vibration of the leaves they play dead and drop into the underlying foliage where they miraculously vanish. I have, however, devised a neat little trick of my own, by taking a paper plate and cutting out a slice in the shape of a triangle... like a slice of cake. I then slip this around the base of the plant, so that when the supposedly dead beetles drop off, they lie exposed against a lovely white background.

trap the little reds
Lily Beetle Plate Trap

If you are lucky, you may catch several beetles in one plate attack. My record is four, but remember, I am a highly trained professional, with years of paper plate combat experience under my belt.

Now here is the crucial bit. Once you have captured your pretty little enemy, he must be destroyed. Whether you drown him, squash him or blast him with your neighbours shotgun, isn't important. What matters is that he ends up dead. Don't go getting all namby pamby on me and releasing him down the road, while tearfully humming the theme tune from "Born Free". These beetles can fly and if you do this, there is a real chance they will make it home before you do... or invade the garden of you poor neighbour.

You need to treat for slugs and snails now, as they will be racing towards your hostas and other leafy plants as fast as their slimy little bodies will carry them. The famously useful French liquid soap, savon noir, is great against aphids if used on a regular basis.

War of the Roses
It is time to spray roses for black spot. This disease needs to be treated preventatively, as it is too late once the symptoms manifest. Spray twice this month with a fungicide. Normally I don't spray again after that.

Chaenomeles Japonica
Chaenomeles Japonica

Finally, don't forget to prune spring flowering shrubs such as Chaenomeles Japonica (flowering quince) and Forsythia as soon as they finish flowering.

Previously - click an image below
To read February's gardening tips article - click this image
Is a world without bees possible? Read about this crisis that will affect us all - click here
Prune for Results
A World Without Bees?
What you should have done in January!
Prune your roses - click here
Fruit Tree Pruning
Wars of the Roses

Grumpy Gardener
Our Grumpy Gardener has been gardening professionally in France for more years than he cares to remember and before that in Africa and the UK. Today he happily shares his expertise with French News Online readers. Your gardening questions are welcome and while they may not be individually answered, they may form the basis of future monthly columns.

Article: Mike Alexander

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